Juco state: Taylor helps GC past Chipola for nationals berth
MARIANNA, Mar 10, 2013 (The News Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Tamara Taylor wouldn't allow Gulf Coast's chances of advancing to nationals to be left to chance.
Taylor scored 21 of her game-high 31 points in the second half, and GC collected its eighth state championship in program history with a 61-53 victory over rival Chipola Saturday night in the FCSAA state tournament title game.
The Lady Commodores (27-4) are assured a place in the NJCAA national tournament scheduled for March 18-23 in Salina, Kan. Chipola (25-6) is a primary contender for one of eight at-large bids to nationals and will find out Monday whether it was selected.
The two teams engaged in a physical contest at Chipola's Milton H. Johnson Health Center, matching the other's defensive intensity and making life miserable for the opponent's offense. The teams were a combined 16 for 55 from the field in the first half, and GC held a 23-22 edge at intermission.
Taylor, who was named the tournament's MVP and the state player of the year after the game, scored 15 straight points for the Lady Commodores in a nine-minute stretch in the second half, a 15-foot jumper giving GC a 46-41 lead with 8:09 remaining.
Chipola closed within 46-45 after a Trevonna Brooks jumper, but the Lady Commodores reeled off 11 of the next 13 points to take control. Five different GC players scored during that spurt, and Mar'lisa Braxton's layin put the Lady Commodores on top 57-47 with two minutes left. The Lady Indians never got closer than seven.
"First of all, for me to talk about Tamara," GC coach Vernette Skeete said, "I have to talk about Necole Sterling. I have to talk about Aissata Maiga. I pulled Necole to the side and said she had to carry us until Tamara got it going. Aissata was playing defense and stopping their biggest guard. They bought us enough time for Tamara to get going.
"Tamara was able to do what Tamara does because of Necole Sterling, because of Jessica Morton, because of Aissata Maiga."
Sterling had all nine of her points in the first half as she and Taylor combined for 19 of their team's 23 points at halftime. Rayven Brooks, who led the Lady Indians with 15 points, had a team-best six points at halftime.
Taylor was a part of GC's runner-up team last year that lost 64-60 against Pensacola in the state championship. She was all smiles after this game, however, particularly after joining her teammates to cut down the nets after the win.
"Last year we got hurt and didn't have an answer," Taylor said. "This year we worked too hard to fall short."
Morton hauled down 12 rebounds for the Lady Commodores, who outrebounded Chipola 52-37. According to the NJCAA's web site, GC came into the night ranked 155th in the country in rebounding (30.4 per game), while Chipola was fourth in the nation (58.8 per game).
Lady Indians coach Greg Franklin said he believes his team, which ended the season ranked three spots behind No. 7 GC in the national poll, is worthy of an at-large selection to nationals. However, he added, "In the big scheme of things you never know what is going to happen. This team deserve to play again even with a thin bench and thin kids."
Chipola has played the second half of the season with only seven players, and they were hampered by foul trouble against the Lady Commodores. Rayven Brooks and Kristine Brance both fouled out, leaving Chipola with only five players available for the final 78 seconds.
--GULF COAST (61) -- Rosier 0 0-0 0, Sterling 2 4-4 9, Morton 3 1-4 8, Maiga 0 2-4 2, Rosario 1 0-0 3, Braxton 1 2-6 4, Redmon 0 0-0 0, Taylor 11 8-18 31, Montgomery 2 0-0 4. Totals 20 17-36 61.
--CHIPOLA (53) -- Crawford 1 2-5 4, T. Brooks 3 2-2 9, R. Brooks 4 5-9 15, Givens 4 2-4 11, Bell 3 0-1 8, Brance 1 0-0 2, Littleton 1 2-4 4. Totals 17 13-25 53.
--Halftime: Gulf Coast 23, Chipola 22. Three-point goals: GC 4 (Taylor, Rosario, Sterling, Morton), Chip 6 (Bell 2, R. Brooks 2, T. Brooks, Givens). Rebounds: GC 52 (Morton 12), Chip 37 (Littleton 7). Total fouls: GC 21, Chip 27. Fouled out: R. Brooks, Brance).
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